Southern Methodist’s up-tempo offense will challenge Temple’s defense

Coach Matt Rhule walks the sideline during the Owls’ 28-13 loss to Army on Sept. 2. Rhule resigned as the Owls' head coach in December after accepting a coaching position at Baylor University in Texas. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Since Matt Rhule came to Temple in 2013, teams have scored 40 or more points against the Owls’ defense three times. Two of those occurrences were against Southern Methodist.

In 2013, the Mustangs came to Lincoln Financial Field and took down Temple, 59-49. Last season, the Owls traveled to Dallas and came home with a 60-40 victory.

On Saturday, Temple and Southern Methodist meet at The Linc for the Owls’ first American Athletic Conference game.

“They’ve been high scoring shootouts,” coach Matt Rhule said. “That’s not really our style of offense, but that’s the way it’s been.”

Part of the reason for the high-scoring games is Mustangs’ coach Chad Morris’ up-tempo offense. Southern Methodist has run 303 plays in four games. In contrast, Temple has run 241 plays in its 2-2 start.

“You have to work on it in practice, going fast, going fast,” redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick said. “Getting the defensive calls faster, looking and reading the offense to see what you have to do faster. So you definitely have to kick it up for the tempo.”

Southern Methodist averages 245.5 yards passing and 202.5 yards rushing per game. Last year against the Owls, quarterback Matt Davis did most of the offensive work for the Mustangs. He threw for 167 yards and a touchdown and ran for 102 yards and a touchdown.

Davis is out for the year with a knee injury, so Morris turned to freshman Ben Hicks to guide the Mustangs’ offense. Hicks has thrown two touchdowns and seven interceptions and completed 50 percent of his passes in Southern Methodist’s first four games.

“Our job this week is to stop the run, and then once we stop the run, they’re going to try to air the ball out to [sophomore wide receiver] Courtland Sutton,” Reddick said. And it’s up to the D-line to bring the pressure and affect the quarterback that way that doesn’t happen.”

“The goal of the week is to definitely get after [Hicks],” Reddick added.

On defense, Southern Methodist is giving up 449.8 yards per game, which ranks No. 98 out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

However, the Mustangs have kept themselves in games by forcing turnovers. Southern Methodist is currently tied for first in the FBS in interceptions with 10 and fourth in turnovers forced with 11.

Earlier this season, Morris’ team went into halftime tied, 6-6, with Baylor University and trailed Texas Christian University, 6-3, before fading out in the second half and falling to the Big 12 Conference opponents.

“They pick a lot of balls off,” Rhule said. “They make a lot of good plays. They play with a lot of swagger on defense. They’ll get in your face. They’ll talk to you. We had better be ready for all that energy and juice that they’ll provide.”

The matchup with the Mustangs is the first American Athletic Conference game for the Owls, giving them a chance to reset after a 2-2 start.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” redshirt-senior tight end Romond Deloatch said. “You know it’s conference play, our conference is real tough. It could be up and down so we just have to come out there and play Temple football.”

“It’s 0-0 right now,” Deloatch added. “So we’re going into conference play, we’re excited.”

Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue@temple.edu or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.

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